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With more than 14 million “meal prep” hashtags on Instagram, you’ve most likely seen your fair share of images featuring rows of food-filled containers, lined up perfectly on the kitchen counter, followed by an abundance of meal prep tips and food prep-related hashtags, and with a swipe of a finger, a chiseled physique to match!
Prepping food for a few days (or even the week) seems to be a constant in the lives of those walking around in impressive physiques, but there’s more to food prep than preparing clean foods and tossing them in containers. (Although that’s a great start!)
Joshua Bailey, personal trainer, and chef provides his top meal prep tips that will set you up for success in the kitchen — which as we know, is where hard-earned muscles are revealed. So let’s get prepping!
You don’t have to be 12 weeks out from a fitness competition to get in the groove of meal prepping. Not only does it save time and money, but it’s also another way to hold yourself accountable for what you eat.
Although convenience is the biggest factor for Bailey, defeating spur-of-the-moment impulses that lead to unhealthy eating is where food prep shines.
“Having food premade stops a lot of impulse decisions when it comes to deciding what to eat,” says Bailey. “If your food is already prepped and ready you are less likely to make the decision to stop for something extremely unhealthy such as fast food, which is quick and easy of course, but meal prep is a quicker, easier, and healthier alternative.”
For accountability at your fingertips, you simply have to take the time and prep your food. And it doesn’t have to be on Sunday either; choose a day that works best for you.
“These days, meal prepping is the new version of ‘fast food’ — and when you do a side-by-side comparison of money and time saved — you will quickly realize that meal prepping is the way to go,” Bailey says.
Beyond food portions, knowing what goes into your body via added ingredients and calories, such as condiments and spices, is important for anyone looking to get healthier and leaner.
“Something to keep in mind when meal prepping is the amount of oils and salts that you add to your food.” Warns Bailey. “These two things can make a huge difference in whether you reach your goals or not.” People often don’t realize the effects that high sodium meals can have on the body, so it is important to be conscious of the seasonings that you are adding to your food.
Working with a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist can help put you on the right track with all things’ food prep, servings sizes, and any other questions you may have when looking to prep successfully. You can ramp up your spice rack with spices that are low in sodium but packed with flavor, to help you stay the course and keep it tasty.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to meal prep. When determining what your meal prep containers should be filled with, you should first understand what your goals are.
“The biggest thing about meal prepping for yourself is exactly that: it should be based around your personal goals and macros,” says Bailey. This could be the reason results lag; you may end up consuming too many calories (or not enough) based on your individual stats/goals.
There are a few ways to track macros and learn how to meal prep for your personalized goals such as hiring a professional to downloading a trustworthy app.
Bailey relies on the widely used fitness app, MyFitnessPal to track his macros, nutrients, and calories. If you’d like to give this route a try, here are Bailey’s tips to get you started:
Once you learn what portions of food and macros are best for your goals, you’ll then have the secret weapon to food prep: Personalized food portions and consistency.